Friday, November 16, 2007

Roles of memory in Oral and Written Narratives

Richard Powers so beautifully shows us that “The self is an incredibly ingenious novelist,” for we are always crafting our existence and the world, interpreting, translating everything around us, from the basest movement to the utmost beliefs and emotion, every second of our lives. “The processes of the mind are held together by narrative.” Clearly the mind is quite a power tool, or weapon, for survival. It works not only as this master organized secretary for our existence but also it copes with all of our problems, too, even if that means pushing them away. Forgetting. Denying. Deleting. This anosognosia (lack of knowledge) can complete from complete repression of traumatic events or brought about from illness as we see in the Echo Maker.

“This case [of Capgras] is a chance to see just how treacherous the logic of conscious [is].” I found this illness in particular to be rather eerie. Picture that for a second, lake eerie: a windless afternoon, sailboats sailing along undisturbed. The scene is one of complete calm. The picture of normalcy. The disturbing parts lies in the stagnancy of the bottom waters. That’s where the illness hides here. The problem is Deep within. Missing the basest of emotions that are rooted in the amigdala—it’s almost like the upper regions of the brain with higher processing are over thinking the easy, the known, the experienced. These people who suffer from such an delusion to see “Not neighbors, colleagues or friends but those closest to him” as “aliens” or “government agents.” “Capgras syndrome “looks upon people close to him as, somehow, substitutions,” Mr. Powers clarifies.

The writing and mentality behind writing his book, as explain in the NPR interview, is completely fascination, in my opinion. Powers doesn’t write any longer, he speaks. He uses voice recognition to tell his stories. Do you, class, feel that changes something? There is some different to “careful and perfected language” as our Fresh Air host suggests to an oral history, even of the same events. Remember: The brain always is editing, like we’ve found, no memory is solid upon itself. They change, grow, and subtract from an event: a memory is not an exact thing. One would think then that something written would at least remain consistent in its story rather than a tale told which could change with time and it’s orator. Do you feel that this is a reasonable assumption that something written is more concrete in reality than a story uttered? Keep this in mind: “Typing and speaking are two completely different neurological activities,” explains Richard Powers.

I know that I hesitate to say yes, that writing is more concrete, but I think back to our conversation on Autism two Monday’s ago with Lyde Sizer and Michelle. Michelle offered us an amazing clear, time-lined accounts of her and her sons’ lives. An act which can not have been easy, telling a personal story in front of a room of strangers—even as an actor, myself, I would find that difficult. Her story was almost if not more fluid that Lyde’s “letters.” There is something to be said about an oral story: never revelations can occur when reaching back into the past. Sometimes it’s as if the present afflicts aphasia and we can only see clearly years later in the future. Think about this idea of narration and stories, our past conversations, and perhaps your own experiences and write about written and orated narratives and their role in narrative stories. Does one tell a more reliable story? Are the both valid modes of story telling? Both invalid? What are your feelings, based in your logic and studies, on this subject?

1 comment:

Emmy P. said...

I feel as though it's quite difficult to compare the oral narrative versus the written in terms of memory of course. Because memory is not a storage center in the brain of various invents and date but rather a process of remembering and further more each time we remember we remember differently it is very had to say.

Oral narratives will inevitably be different every time you tell them, even if it's just a few words or phrases that have differed. With a written narrative you can reflect on a perspective that was had at one point and compare your new memories with them.

I feel that it's not necessarily important on how we remember, but rather what emotion or aesthetic is attached to the memory is more significant. We see this through the emotional connection or lack there of between Mark and Karin. Although Mark can remember how he is connected to his sister his "gut instinct" toward that feeling is gone. Imagine if he could not remember how his sister made him feel at all? That would be a great loss as well.

The "feelings" of memory are clearly significant for our bare survival as beings. We can see this through fear conditioning. We must have an emotional connection to what dangers us and we only arrive at this through memory and it's integration with feelings.

Is it necessarily important to remember exactly what happened when I went to an amusement park? The smell? The color of my shoes that day? Or is it more important to remember that I had a good time there?

For the individual I don't think there is any perfect means for remembering. Writing certainly does solidify a story in time.

But perhaps our brain is better at knowing what to discard and keep, simply for our own psychological health...